Signal Wave

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I suppose you all know that Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy by a bunch of thugs. I can't call it an arrest since he didn't break the law. It's not a crime to offend the powerful.

I'd like to spend today taking apart a quotation from The Economist. A hearty hat tip to Centaurea for embedding this in her/his comment on gjohnsit's diary A Few Brave Enough to Speak Out:

Others think it a long-overdue reckoning with justice for a man who had unleashed information anarchy upon the West, culminating in the destabilisation of American democracy.

The man in question is, of course, Julian Assange. His publication of leaked materials is what they mean by "information anarchy."

I'd like briefly to pick apart the idea of "information anarchy."

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Anarchy comes from the Greek noun arkhon, ruler, and the verb arkhein to rule. The prefix a- or an-is a negative, which you can find in many other words, from atheists to anachronisms. Therefore anarchy means, literally, "no rule." In other words, nobody's running the show.

It's somewhat of a mental tick on the part of authoritarians to automatically assume that "no rule" means "misrule." I'm not arguing the pros and cons of anarchism here, but you don't have to be an anarchist to see the self-serving hypocrisy of assuming a priori that the lived reality of anarchy must lie somewhere between a teenager's messy room, a bombed-out building, and The Lord of the Flies. Of course, the assumption goes, without an authority figure, all hell must break loose; people must be ruled or they will misbehave.

"Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It's the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life's joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel."

In the 80s, when people criticized the IRA's violence, I would respond with criticisms of the violence of the corresponding Protestant groups and the British army itself. I was most often met with blank stares. People had never heard of the Protestant counterparts to the IRA, and violence wasn't violence if the army of a big, wealthy nation did it. The idea was that the IRA, by virtue of being in rebellion, had to prove themselves moral; others involved in that fight did not. They simply existed, beyond moral considerations, like the sky or sea.

In a similar way, anarchism has to prove itself, where other forms of social organization do not. One might point out that anarchism is hardly the sole purveyor of all hell breaking loose. People misbehave a great deal when they are under authority. People also misbehave a great deal when they wield authority. There is ample historical and scientific evidence of both these facts, from the Third Reich to Guantanamo Bay, from prison guards to the participants in Stanley Milgram's famous experiment. Authoritarian political systems guarantee neither good behavior--however defined--nor order; often they create the bad behavior and disorder through the exercise of their authority.

But we're talking about information anarchy, a turn of phrase I'd never seen before today. It's like a shiny new penny, this phrase, newly minted somewhere in Northern Virginia or southern Maryland probably, in the office of a political consultant, a member of a think tank, or a spy. So before we all absorb this phrase amoeba-like into the language, as we've done with fake news, let's introduce ourselves to it. Let's analyze it while we still can.

Given that anarchy means no rule or no rulers, I'm guessing information anarchy means data without rule or data without rulers. Since our reaction to the word anarchy is supposed to consist of a gasp of horror and a clutching of pearls, we're not supposed to think through this concept of ungoverned data. We're supposed to simply go ANARCHY BAD. JULIAN ASSANGE MAKES ANARCHY HAPPEN. JULIAN BAD.

But there are those of us who still know how to reason, and won't abandon the practice, either for moral reasons or simply because we refuse to be made a chump:

You would play upon me. You would seem to know my stops. You would pluck out the heart of my mystery. You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass. And there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak? 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.

The problem with the term information anarchy is that it implies that data should have a ruler. And for any thinking person, that leads to the question: Who should rule data? It also leads to other questions, like: How does the ruler of data get chosen? What kind of powers should the ruler have over data? How many people get to rule data? Have we ever, before now, assumed that data should be ruled?

That final question is important because throwing the term "information anarchy" into a public discussion without defining your terms implies that this is a concept we've all shared for a long time. It's one of the opinion merchants' favorite tricks: Oh this has always been here, don't you remember? But it hasn't. There has been no tradition of ruling data, apart from extremely limited and well-defined circumstances (releasing information that would compromise the investigation of a crime; shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater, etc.) I'll go further: the tradition in America is that, most of the time, data should not be ruled. Coining the phrase information anarchy without admitting that it's newly minted is a way of changing that tradition without having to argue about it. Get people to accept the phrase as if it's always been there, and poof! no tradition. And poof! A new tradition is born.

But don't think about the new tradition too much. If people think about it, they will ask questions about who should rule information, and why, and the person who minted this new phrase--and the people who circulate it--don't want that. In fact, they can't tolerate it. They need people to 1)be afraid of something, 2)attach that fear to a chosen target, 3)hate and revile the target, and therefore 4)ask no questions about how power is managed, who holds it, and what the effects are. This is how 9/11, Osama bin Laden, and al Quaeda were used to deflect criticism from the Bush administration; it's how Trump is being used to deflect criticism from the political establishment, both Democratic and Republican; it's how Putin is being used to deflect criticism from the military industrial complex.

Not only can they not afford for people to ask questions, they can't afford for people to conceive, or remember, alternative ideas (like the notion that data should not be governed). That's why they erase and replace cultural beliefs and traditions. They can't allow the past to create an outside to the reality they're so assiduously building. Furthermore, if people think about the past, they might notice a tradition of reason and fact-finding which used to be the way we dealt with inaccurate, malicious, or incoherent data. We dealt with bad data not by "ruling it," but by using reason to show its shortcomings. Authority was located in a set of principles, a process of rational thought, not in any one person or institution.

The powerful created a cultural vacuum by eradicating critical thought, and now they bemoan the unruliness of data and wring their hands over how information has no king, implying that they, or someone they support, should provide rulership to data tout suite, to save the Western World from chaos. They don't consider the simplest solution to unruly data, rational analysis, because they cannot tolerate it. The status quo has a fatal allergy to reason, because reason questions, and they have no answers to any questions, no justification for power but power, no reason that this particular reality is necessary or good.

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detroitmechworks's picture

Can't wait until we all start getting our nice new security clearances which tell us which things we are allowed to know about. I wonder how high on the color coded security spectrum Judo will be.

(Little side note. I find it very interesting that the most promoted martial arts for civilians in America are absolutely useless against people in body armor. The one exception I can think of is BJJ, and the military specifically trains how to counter that. Short Version, if they pull guard like they're trained... shoot 'em. You don't have time to get involved in a sport fight, and they just made themselves a perfect target.)

The control of information has always been interesting. Used to be that you controlled information by making damaging ideas "unfashionable" or "offensive". When that didn't work, they relied on killing dissenters. Looks like we're back at that point, and it always starts with criminalizing the most "EVIL" ideas. Eventually it ends up with "Kill them All, God will know his own"...

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@detroitmechworks

Which kinds of martial arts are good against people in body armor?

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

detroitmechworks's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal Most arts that depend on striking are useless against body armor since they deliberately attack points that would be covered by armor, and thus would hurt the attacker more than the guy in armor. (They will claim otherwise of course, especially Krav Maga guys who will swear up and down that their tricks will defeat soldiers, etc... when any who are honest will tell you that going up against a guy in armor with a gun is suicide. That particular art depends on the enemy wanting to take you alive and not being ruthless.)

On the other hand, Grappling arts like Judo and BJJ are far better against armored opponents, because they depend more on balance and control rather than force. You knock somebody down in armor, and their armor becomes a liability, giving you the chance to GET AWAY. Which to be frankly honest, if you're up against somebody in armor should be your first goal. Judo has the advantage of not being as obsessed with going to the ground and choking/pinning the opponent, so as a result is better for the LAST part of that. (Running away!)

Because there's a HUGE difference in mentality between a sport fight and a real one. Course, you have to train like you expect to fight. I expect to put somebody down fast, not hurt them if possible, and get the HELL away. Style doesn't count for shit if you're dead, IMHO.
Edit: Forgot the video.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@detroitmechworks

Good philosophy. Knocking someone out of combat, even temporarily, being the goal.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

detroitmechworks's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal I admit that I'm a Judoka, so my biases do show a bit.

However, that's the path I'm on. I'm trying to study an art, so I have to take on the mentality/goals of that art in order to succeed at it. If I have a different goal in mind, I still must identify what the overt goal is to gain any benefit from the training. Nothing wrong with learning from somebody with a COMPLETELY different goal in mind, as long as you can identify it and work towards it. (For example, somebody might take up a swimming course, not to get better at swimming, but to get physical therapy for their injury which requires low impact exercise. Nothing wrong with having a different goal in the long term, but you still have to at least learn how to doggy paddle and the concept of breathing with the mouth OUT of the water.) Smile

I guess my point is that I have to keep reminding myself that when I learn from others, I take on their philosophy as well. As such, all philosophies have strengths and weaknesses. Identifying those and trying to play to the former and minimize the latter is the entire idea of martial arts cross training. Unfortunately, many who engage in that kind of thinking automatically think themselves superior by the very nature of their "Gestalt" philosophy, not realizing that by minimizing the multiple paths and teachers that brought them to that point, they weaken any students they will have going forward, who will not gain the benefits of learning for themselves about the needed adjustments. (Essentially, I'm praising fully embracing multiple philosophies over a lifetime, but being aware of their qualities. Because that is the philosophy I find the most effective at this time. Smile )

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

@detroitmechworks

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01, a Boeing 757 (AA Flight 77) flew into the Pentagon.
If you can't accept these indisputable facts, I can't fake an interest in your opinions about anything else.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

How are you doing?

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

enhydra lutris's picture

and this neologism, as you so skillfully point out, would imprison it, subject to the whims of, no doubt self-appointed, rulers. Information has never had rulers, only custodians, who protect, preserve and facilitate access thereto, who are known by the name librarians. Thier existence through long ages and the existence of that job and word put lie to the possibility of any historicity for the phrase "information anarchy" except in the trivial sense that yes, information is free and was meant to be free, for all to see and know, to analyze, ponder, learn from and expand upon.

Have a great day and thanks for posting this. I was unaware that this nefarious rhetoric was loose in the world, but will not be looking out for it in order to counter it.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

lotlizard's picture

A lot of Dresden’s middle schoolers, including the daughter of a friend, celebrated their “Jugendweihe” yesterday, a day for family gatherings centered on a kind of non-religious confirmation ceremony marking the end of childhood and the first step into adulthood for fourteen-year-olds.

The official program of inspirational prose and song included a live cover of Reinhard Mey’s Das kleine Mädchen auf meinem Schoß (“the little girl on my lap,” a sentimental reflection on how your little kid becomes a big kid and before you know it is going off on their own, leaving mom and dad behind), a troupe of (white) schoolboys breakdancing, and brief quotations by a wide variety of writers ranging from Hermann Hesse to Oscar Wilde to Ayn Rand.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@lotlizard

Congrats to all the not-exactly-kids-any-longer!

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

lotlizard's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal  
https://jugendweihe-sachsen.de/

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

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3 users have voted.

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

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3 users have voted.

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

lotlizard's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal  

I recall Central Park in fall
How you tore your dress
What a mess
I confess
That’s not all

perhaps we’re now supposed to respond, “‘That’s not all’? What the h— is that supposed to mean?!! Perv! I was never so humiliated in my entire life and you enjoyed it?”

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Anja Geitz's picture

Your rabbit ears for language are showing...

Coining the phrase information anarchy without admitting that it's newly minted is a way of changing that tradition without having to argue about it.

Spot on. Assange represents an existential threat to their goal of manufacturing consent through the information they chose for us to hear. Can't have an effective propaganda campaign if the TPTB don't have full control of the narrative, can we?

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If we surrendered to earth's intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@Anja Geitz

Easter and all. Smile

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Anja Geitz's picture

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If we surrendered to earth's intelligence we could rise up rooted, like trees
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

jobu's picture

To flesh out an outstanding observation.

Very well done. Thank you.

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Is very bad to steal Jobu's Rum, is very bad...

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@jobu

Nice to "see" you. Thanks for stopping by.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Steven D's picture

Information anarchy is a word salad term that serves one purpose: to frighten and turn people against whomever is accused of creating this nonsensical neologism.

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

Lily O Lady's picture

the demonstration by the youth of the world against inaction for Climate Change.

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

TheOtherMaven's picture

@Lily O Lady

I'm cynical enough to believe that it was.

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There is no justice. There can be no peace.

Lily O Lady's picture

@TheOtherMaven

epicenter of this particular movement.

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

lotlizard's picture

@Lily O Lady  
Their royal, feudal Saudi majesties have wealth and influence at a level that, since we don’t have royalty, is hard for Americans to imagine.

The kind of wealth and influence fully capable of forcing Her Majesty’s Brexit-weakened government to act on behalf of a foolishly fossil-fuel-fueled future that continues to flow funds into their coffers.

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=saudi+aramco+111+billion

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lotlizard's picture

https://www.dw.com/en/russia-trying-to-meddle-in-eu-elections-report/a-4...

Reported as fact — at least they’re not saying “all 17” anymore:

US intelligence agencies found that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election to sway the vote in Donald Trump's favor.

Complaints to Green and Left media and party institutions about their having become funnels for U.S. military-industrial complex and deep-state propaganda fall on deaf ears.

Ironically, the only party represented in the German parliament that opposes such official propaganda at the moment is the right-wing populist AfD.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@lotlizard

You'll have to imagine a tone of deep disgust, since I can't convey that over the ether.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

travelerxxx's picture

Very important essay, CStMS. Thank-you.

You are quite right in saying we need to "...analyze it while we still can." You have done a good job doing just that, and in bringing it to our attention. We need to keep our ears tuned for more instances of this phrase, or phrases with a similar bent.

Also, just stumbling around online, I have found that the phrase is not new, but its use started in the same vein as we see now in regard to Assange and/or Wikileaks. In an article from wsws.com, former New York Times writer/editor Bill Keller is noted to have used the phrase:

In a November, 2006 lecture at the University of Michigan, Keller made the danger of “information anarchy” the center of his talk.

More information on the U of M lecture is here including quite a few quotes. I was unable to find complete text of the talk, but I read enough to know I don't think I'd help Mr. Keller change a flat.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@travelerxxx

This is the danger of limiting one's exposure to corporate media.

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The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

travelerxxx's picture

@Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal

I wouldn't have had the impetus to do some research without your essay, CStMS. I noted the use of the phrase when I read reports of the quotation in The Economist, and immediately marked it, as you did. Still, I probably would have let it go without further investigation. I'm glad you explored it.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@travelerxxx

and yeah, he can change his own flat.

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1 user has voted.

The issue is patriotism. You've got to get back to your planet and stop the Commies. All it takes is a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem